What is a tank and how should we do it?
Different than a rebuild, a tank is strictly for one season. A full on rebuild - a la the Toronto Maple Leafs - involves ripping the core apart and gaining as many picks as possible. The Winnipeg Jets do not need to do that. A single season tank could improve fortunes going into next season and beyond. Simple acts such as trading Andrew Ladd, sandbagging injured players, having a look at youth and even looking at trading one of Mathieau Perreault or Drew Stafford could enable a deep tank to the bottom of the standings. Even though the Winnipeg Jets currently hold the third last spot in the league, other teams could make a more serious attempt and the Jets could end up drafting outside the top five yet again. In the middle of the worst season in Jets 2.0 history there is no reason to stay in the middle. Bring on the tank!
Auston Matthews and some other guys
The big prize at this years draft in Buffalo is none other than Auston Matthews. Of course when you think of a tank you think of drafting the best possible player. Even if the Jets end up dead last in the league, they only have a 20% chance of drafting first overall under the new lottery system. However the next 4 players in Patrik Laine, Jesse Puljujarvi, Matthew Tkachuk and Jacob Chychrun are not exactly chopped liver, and one of these players would definitely be available to whichever team ends up last. Not a bad consolation prize. This years top five is one of the best in recent memory.
Beyond the first round
A theoretical dead last team would not be bound by the lottery system past the first round. The tank commanders would have a second round pick just behind the Stanley Cup winners. There is tremendous value in that.
Move some asses to get some assets
A good tank also involves selling off players to gain assets such as first round picks, second round picks, prospects, maybe even a roster players (no thanks Blackhawks fans, we are not interested in Bryan Bickell). These assets can be seen to maturity, or flipped for other moves. Draft picks are the most liquid asset in the NHL. Not every team wants a prospect goalie, but all teams want draft picks.
The return of waiver wire Chevy
NHL CBA article 13.19 establishes waiver wire priority. During the off season and up until November 1 the priority is reverse of the prior season standings. Waiver wire priority during the fall when teams are making their cuts is a valuable tool. Last fall we saw players like Richard Panik, Frank Corrado, and Anthony Marchessault hit the waiver wire. Would not it be nice to have Corrado on the Jets? In the past we've seen players like Marty St. Louis (!) and Ilya Bryzgalov go on waivers. That was the year when Bryzgalov tore up the league.
The season essentially becomes garbage time if it has not already. Having a good look at our youth will establish what we have and what should be moved. Players like Joel Armia will need waivers in the fall for the first time. Without sufficient playing time in the big league it becomes impossible to determine if these players deserve a roster spot in the fall or a spot on the waiver wire.
That pesky internal cap
Although details are slim on how True North Sports and Entertainment manages their interal salary cap, no doubt there is some sort of mechanism that enables a rollover of unused budget from one year to the next. Next years salaries could be very high, why not get a jump start on dealing with it this year?
Flexibility is key
With extra draft picks and less salary or cap hit, the Winnipeg Jets could enter the summer and next season full of flexibility. Cheveldayoff could either quickly reload, or enable a longer tank and a rebuild.
The future of the NHL salary cap
Some reports have the NHL salary cap upper limit actually going down between three and four million. Getting younger always means cheaper contracts. Signing Andrew Ladd now might be a hasty mistake. Reports are Ladd turned down a $6 million 6 year offer. If the cap goes down will the current Jets captain even get that in free agency? What if Cheveldayoff could sign the Maple Ridge native for $5 million over 5 years in July? Will teams be desperate to unload salary cap in the summer? Keeping the status quo means the Jets might miss the haul.
Sense of direction
Winnipeg hockey fans are no fools and have been unhappy with the lack of direction over the past few years. A tank makes it clear what the plan is. A tank also sends a message to the players. Do not get too comfortable.
Is a tank needed for this season? Will the fans tolerate it? Let us know.